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Discussion Starter #1
2000 Ford Focus SE with replacement zetec engine.

Hello all. I figure this sort of problem has been covered quite some already, but I was just wondering if someone can evaluate what I've got so far so that I don't start going off in the wrong direction.

Problem: Engine hesitating (starts fine). At idle, almost seems as if it's about to stall out, but never has. Engine was previously working fine with no prior signs of problem.

Result from Code Reader: P0303 Cylinder #3 Misfire Detected

Performed spark test on the spark-plug-end of #3 plug wire. Unless my eyes were deceiving me, for the first several seconds there didn't appear to be any sparks, but then sparks became visible. In retrospect I'm not sure if for those first few seconds the sparks were really absent – it was in broad daylight so maybe I just couldn't see them. Anyway, sparks seem to be present straightaway on subsequent restarts, but the engine hesitation remains.

I was going to do a straight swap of plug wires to see if the problem follows the #3 wire, but each wire is a unique length so I couldn't do that. Was going to get a new set of wires later in the week but in the meantime, I pulled the #3 spark plug: looks fine I guess, completely dry, no obvious burns or oil or sludge or anything like that. I swapped the #3 and #1 spark plugs and cleared the P0303 code. I wanted to see if the problem would follow the #3 spark plug but when I restarted, though the engine is still hesitating in the exact same way, the check engine light doesn't come on and so no fault code is being registered.

One thing is that there is no hesitation when I give some revs (say >2000 rpm) in park/neutral.

So anyway, I plan to try new wires and maybe borrow a compression tester to test compression. From what I've read in this forum, some possible candidates would be anything in the ignition area, compression, fuel injectors, but I just wanted to see if anyone more experienced can evaluate what I've got so far, possibly rule some things out or provide insight on what's likely. Thanks!
 

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Switch the connection at the coil for the 2 and 3 plug wires.
(Zetec is wasted-spark; 1&4, 2&3 are the firing pairs)

If the problem moves to the #2 cylinder, it's the coil. If it stays with #3, it's the wire or plug.

Do you have a timing light? (can't time with it anymore, but easy way to see test for spark)

Might take awhile for a fault code............
 

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Why is it always the #3 cylinder? Whenever I read about engine failures and misfires, it's always #3. Is that a known trend?

Toby
 

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Mine started misfiring on Cyl #1 ('03 Zetec).

It was the coil harness, right where the wires meet the plug. Removed old harness from parts car, spliced it into current car, reset codes, and done.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Well I finally got to replacing all the plug wires and just went ahead and replaced the plugs as well, but the problem is still the same.

Switch the connection at the coil for the 2 and 3 plug wires.
(Zetec is wasted-spark; 1&4, 2&3 are the firing pairs)
If the problem moves to the #2 cylinder, it's the coil. If it stays with #3, it's the wire or plug.
Thanks - I haven't tried this yet but just so I understand correctly, I should run the wire from the #2 post on the coil to the #3 spark plug and wire from the #3 post on the coil to the #2 spark plug? This is safe to do?

...It was the coil harness, right where the wires meet the plug. Removed old harness from parts car, spliced it into current car, reset codes, and done.
Thanks - is there a way to test whether the problem might be with the coil or the harness?
 

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2&3 CAN be swapped right at the coil, as mentioned they fire together so this works fine.

We HAVE seen coils that fired better on one than the other when they're going out, this is a good way to check where the problem lies as emsvitil mentioned.

Coil connector/wiring usually affects a pair of cylinders, as there is one power wire there & two that supply intermittent ground from the ECU to fire each pair of cylinders. (three wires total)
 

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Discussion Starter #7
So I went ahead and swapped the #2 & #3 connections at the coil and after clearing the initial P0303 code and running the engine a while, I received code “P0302 Cylinder #2 Misfire Detected”. So by...
If the problem moves to the #2 cylinder, it's the coil.
...I guess I'll go ahead and get a replacement coil (unless someone has anything else to add!).

I guess OEM replacement manufacturers and parts retailers identify your replacement part by car year/model/sub-model, but as I mentioned at the start, this is a 2000 Focus SE but with a replacement Zetec engine, so I figure I should be matching the part to the engine rather than my actual model SE. I'm actually quite unfamiliar with the differences among the model variants (SE, LE, ZTS, etc) and so which one came with the Zetec engine? Or were they all Zetec? Anyway my current coil has part number 988F-12029-AB. I checked on fordparts.com and this seems to be the only coil listed for 2000 Focuses. Does this mean all variants (including Zetec) shared the same ignition coil? Can someone maybe confirm this so that I'm sure to get the correct part? Or in other words, can I just use any coil from any OEM replacement manufacturer that says it's for a 2000 Focus (none of them specify a sub-model or Zetec or whatever)? I did a quick search and found Delphi #GN10177, Beck Arnley #178-8308 – are these brands fine or can anyone recommend a brand to use or otherwise stay away from? Thanks!
 

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None of them lasts, I've had Motorcraft last 6 months and a no-name Chinese coil last 2 years. Coils change like plugs on these cars. Tell whoever you want a coil for 2.0 liter DOHC, the zetec motor. Most parts catalogs call it out as the DOHC motor. (dual overhead cams)
 

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200-2004 Zetecs are identical (that's the 2.0L DOHC engine...if they ask for a vehicle code, the answer is 3).
Thank heaven you have the Zetec, because the SPI (SOHC) was well-known for dropping valve seats and trashing engines. Guessing that's how you ended up with a Zetec in an SE to begin with.
I've run two Zetecs with high mileage, so I have nothing but praise for these engines.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Just wanted to report that I finally got to replacing the coil and all seems well! Hesitation is gone, no engine light, engine running smooth. Only minor problem I had was just the torx (T25) screws securing the coil were the tamper-resistant type with the tiny inset nibs, for which I didn't immediately have the proper bit. Why tamper-resistant? I'm pretty sure that if someone wants to remove the coil it's because they had to, not to screw around with it! Anyway, no big deal. Just need to make the install permanent with some dielectric grease.

Though not clearly visible while installed, there were some significant cracks on the sides of the original coil. So maybe for anyone's future reference if they're having similar problems but doesn't have a code reader to chase the codes, this might be a simple visual cue to help in the diagnosis.

@amc49: None of them lasts, I've had Motorcraft last 6 months and a no-name Chinese coil last 2 years.
Thanks - maybe all the different brands of coils are coming out of the same few plants, just with different manufacturer labeling?

That in mind, and if anyone might be interested, my replacement coil is Standard Motor Products #FD497T, costing me $30, received the next day. I didn't see the point in buying some other unit costing twice as much if they're all possibly coming from the same plant. The "T-Series" is apparently their OE replacement, economy, high-volume line, which I guess is probably what repair garages might typically go for. Hopefully it lasts. Just to note though - the coil was manufactured in Poland.

Thanks everyone for all your help!

Now I'm off to fix the brakes, which was my original problem before this one.
 

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Tx for the update & resolution!
 
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